The wild blue yonder this weekend includes the southern tip of the Florida Keys, as the Blue Angels aerobatic flight team plans to cause a spectacle in the sky.
Naval Station Key West hosts its Southernmost Air Spectacular today and Sunday at Boca Chica Field.
Gates open at 9 a.m. today and Sunday, with an air show set for 10:30 a.m. and the Blue Angels at 2:30 p.m. Admission is free, along with parking. Special reserved seating is sold out for both days.
Expect delays if you’re driving along U.S. 1, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said.
About 36,000 people showed up for the air show over both days in 2013, the last time the Angels performed at NAS Key West, said Trice Denny, spokeswoman for the base.
Six famous blue-and-yellow painted F/A-18 Hornets and one C-130 Hercules dubbed “Fat Albert,” arrived Thursday morning, after a fly-over above Duval Street, and a practice session was held Friday.
The Fat Albert support plane will be flown by Capt. Katie Higgins, a Marine and third-generation military aviator who is also the first woman to perform as a Blue Angels pilot.
Higgins, 29, calls Severna Park, Maryland, home and this week was greeted as a celebrity by Key West locals.
“We like to freak you guys out,” Higgins said, describing a landing maneuver that puts the C-130 at a 25-30-degree nosedive.
A typical landing drops the nose to a 3-degree angle.
“We’ll be screaming toward the deck,” Higgins said, with a huge smile on the tarmac Thursday, minutes after the Blue Angels’ arrival at NAS Key West.
Higgins admitted to finding commercial flying boring.
“It’s kind of like riding a train,” she said. “I like to be in control.”
Across Key West, the arrival of the Blue Angels popped up in Facebook and Twitter posts as locals excitedly shared photos.
Locals invited to ride along inside one of the zooming jets included Monroe County Schools Superintendent Mark Porter and Key West High School Principal Amber Bosco.
But while the pilots in the tight blue-and-yellow Blue Angels’ flight suits draw the public’s attention, the Navy’s flight demonstration team number 130 people, including maintenance workers and medical staff.
“I love the team concept,” said Navy Hospital Corpsman Clarence Presley, 31, on the tarmac Thursday. “Everybody helps everyone else. It’s a loving atmosphere.”
Presley, a Pompano Beach, Florida, native based in Pensacola, assists the flight surgeon and responds to sick calls.
“We’re all good at what we do,” Presley said.
Mike Hearn, a maintenance assistant for the Blue Angels said the flight team members share a special bond.
“When you join the team, you earn your spot,” Hearn said.